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Nature or Nurture? Learning and Female Labor Force Dynamics

Author

Listed:
  • Laura Veldkamp

    (Stern School, NYU)

  • Alessandra Fogli

    (Minneapolis Fed, CEPR)

Abstract

In the last century, the evolution of female labor force participation has been S-shaped: It rose slowly at first, then quickly, and has leveled off recently. Central to this dramatic rise has been the entry of women with young children. We argue that this S-shaped dynamic came from generations of women learning about the relative importance of nature (endowed ability) and nurture (time spent child-rearing) in determining children's outcomes. Each generation updates the beliefs of their parents, by observing others' outcomes. When few women participate in the labor force, most outcomes are uninformative about the effect of labor force participation and participation rises slowly. As information accumulates and the effects of labor force participation become less uncertain, more women participate, learning accelerates and labor force participation rises faster. As beliefs converge to the truth, participation flattens out. Learning offers a rational explanation for the differences in employment preferences that have been the focus of a large empirical literature. Survey data, wage data and participation data support our story and distinguish it from alternative explanations.

Suggested Citation

  • Laura Veldkamp & Alessandra Fogli, 2007. "Nature or Nurture? Learning and Female Labor Force Dynamics," 2007 Meeting Papers 1021, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed007:1021
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    Cited by:

    1. Matthias Doepke & Moshe Hazan & Yishay D. Maoz, 2015. "The Baby Boom and World War II: A Macroeconomic Analysis," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(3), pages 1031-1073.
    2. Afful, Efua Amoonua, 2013. "Heterogeneity in the Importance of English-Speaking Ability in Determination of Employment Status by Demographic Subgroups in the United States," MPRA Paper 58767, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Stefania Albanesi & Claudia Olivetti, 2016. "Gender Roles and Medical Progress," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 124(3), pages 650-695.
    4. Lídia Farré & Francis Vella, 2013. "The Intergenerational Transmission of Gender Role Attitudes and its Implications for Female Labour Force Participation," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 80(318), pages 219-247, April.
    5. Francesco Giavazzi & Fabio Schiantarelli & Michel Serafinelli, 2013. "Attitudes, Policies, And Work," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(6), pages 1256-1289, December.
    6. Stefania Albanesi, 2017. "Changing Business Cycle Dynamics in the US: The Role of Women's Employment," 2017 Meeting Papers 580, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    7. Stefania Albanesi & Claudia Olivetti, 2006. "Gender roles and technological progress," 2006 Meeting Papers 411, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    8. Hazan, Moshe & Maoz, Yishay D., 2010. "Women's lifetime labor supply and labor market experience," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 34(10), pages 2126-2140, October.
    9. Raquel Fernandez, 2007. "Culture as Learning: The Evolution of Female Labor Force Participation over a Century," NBER Working Papers 13373, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Hanno Lustig, "undated". "The Wealth-Consumption Ratio: A Litmus Test for Consumption-based Asset Pricing Models," UCLA Economics Online Papers 420, UCLA Department of Economics.
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    12. Suqin Ge & Fang Yang, 2013. "Accounting For The Gender Gap In College Attainment," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 51(1), pages 478-499, January.
    13. Raquel Fernandez, 2009. "Culture as Learning: The Evolution of Female Labor Force Participation over a Century," 2009 Meeting Papers 78, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    14. Begoña Álvarez & Daniel Miles, 2009. "Building gender roles: Do children learn from their parents?," Working Papers 0906, Universidade de Vigo, Departamento de Economía Aplicada.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E2 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics

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